After humiliation, will Chelsea’s John Terry become Jose Mourinho’s latest scapegoat?

Leave a comment

“JT. Captain. Leader. Legend,” reads a huge banner placed in the Matthew Harding Stand at Stamford Bridge for every one of Chelsea’s home games.

[ MORE: Three things for City’s win vs. Chelsea ]

But should they add “Jose Mourinho’s latest scapegoat” to the end of the banner? True, that would probably be a little wordy, but the notion may be correct.

Following Chelsea’s humbling 3-0 defeat to Manchester City on Sunday, Jose Mourinho took of his captain at half time with the Blues trailing 1-0 but all over the place at the back as three fine stops from Asmir Begovic stopped Sergio Aguero from scoring four.

[ MORE: Mourinho says result was “fake” ]

In the post-game press conference, Mourinho became annoyed when journalists questioned his decision to hook off Terry and seemingly make the experienced center back the scapegoat for the damaging defeat. Mourinho said “it was not about taking Terry out, it was about bringing Zouma in” and “it was clear for him to play Zouma.” His claims that he needed his fastest defender on the pitch to step up Chelsea’s defensive line did little to quell the feeling he wanted to make a statement by taking Terry off and asked why he didn’t replace a shaky Gary Cahill with Zouma rather than the man who has captained Chelsea to four PL titles, Mourinho only said: “good point.”

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

It was to everybody’s surprise when Chelsea emerged for the second half without their captain in the lineup. Rumors of a slight hamstring pull lingered in the air in the press box. It was in fact a tactical switch and it was also the first time in 176 games that Mourinho had subbed out Terry, who played every single second of last season’s title-winning season. As Chelsea’s inspirational captain sat on the bench and watched his team implode defensively late on, you couldn’t help but feel that Mourinho was making the 34-year-old somewhat of a scapegoat.

Since returning to Chelsea for a second-spell in charge, Mourinho has resurrected Terry’s career when it seemed to be all but over during Rafael Benitez’s tenure at Stamford Bridge in 2013. After the game he was irked at suggestions he’d hung Terry out to dry:

“I don’t know if you asked questions to Rafa Benitez, Andre Villas-Boas, Roberto Di Matteo, to the ones that never played him,” Mourinho said. “I’m the one you shouldn’t ask because I’m the one that plays with John in every game.

“I made John captain. I recovered John from a difficult situation with other managers. I brought my captain off and he was on the bench and still captain on the bench because the armband is just an armband. I can tell you he was not dancing in the dressing room and I can also tell you he was not having a bad reaction.”

Terry was arguably the best center back in the PL last season and made the Team of the Year for anchoring a Chelsea side who had the best defense in the league with just 33 goals against. They’ve already conceded five goals in two games this season, but surely that isn’t solely down to his regression?

By taking off Terry at half time, Mourinho was perhaps making a point to owner Roman Abramovich that he needs a new central defender, and fast. With rumors suggesting Chelsea is willing to pay up to $45 million for Everton’s 21-year-old defender John Stones, this seemed like a ploy to get that ball rolling before the transfer window slams shut on Sept. 1. Mourinho admitted that his side was “defensively fragile” against City and conceded they were lucky to go in 1-0 down at half time.

So, is Terry’s future as a starter for Chelsea uncertain?

No sooner had the whistle blown at the Etihad Stadium than Chelsea announced the signing of Augsburg left back Baba Rahman to strengthen their backline. With Branislav Ivanovic struggling at right back against Jefferson Montero and Raheem Sterling in the opening two weekends of the season, could he lose his spot to natural right back Cesar Azpilicueta who has been filling in at left back? Ivanonvic may even partner Cahill in the center of defense, and then you have Zouma who was hardly at fault for any of City’s goals late on in the game and has impressed in the past 12 months whenever called upon by Mourinho.

In the past the eccentric Portuguese coach has had plenty of scapegoats including calling out the floodlights at stadiums, referees, the media and everybody else in-between. At other clubs he has also called out individuals players. His treatment of Iker Casillas while he was in charge at Real Madrid springs to mind, as Mourinho benched the legendary goalkeeper.

It remains to see what lies on story for Terry long-term at Chelsea, but the center back can hardly be happy at the way he treated by Mourinho. Terry is the glue that holds not just Chelsea’s backline together, but their team spirit as the man who has played for the Blues in each of the last 16 seasons sets the tone for the entire squad

After a turbulent week on and off the pitch following medic-gate and a damaging defeat to their main title rivals, Chelsea’s manager may have caused yet another problem he now has to deal.

Will winning the double be enough to keep Kovac at Bayern?

AP Photo/Matthias Schrader
Leave a comment

BERLIN (AP) Niko Kovac is the first to win a domestic double in Germany as a player and coach, yet it may not be enough to keep his job as Bayern Munich coach.

[ MORE: Valencia end Barcelona’s four-year hold on Copa del Rey ]

Kovac, whose side defeated Leipzig 3-0 in the German Cup final on Saturday, a week after clinching the Bundesliga title, is yet to be given assurances in public from the club that he will remain in charge, despite bringing a successful end to what had been a testing season.

The pressure and uncertainty appeared to cast a shadow on what was Kovac’s second successive German Cup win — he was Eintracht Frankfurt coach when the side defeated Bayern in the final last year.

“Last year I was leaving the team. This year everything is a little less emotional, no tears, but still, I’m happy,” Kovac said.

“Sometimes I would really wish that things went a little differently. It’s difficult to turn the wheel back. We should all work on it, we’re all human. We should make sure that we get along with each other.”

[ U-20 WORLD CUP: Ezequiel Barco’s golazo paces Argentina to big win ]

Kovac, who won the double as a player in 2003, acknowledged the cup win on Saturday was “very important” as “it shows that we have worked well.”

Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was again coy when pressed on the coach’s future.

“At the end of the day, we have to get titles. Of course the coach plays a central role,” Rummenigge said. “It was never an issue for us with the term that he has until 2021, that he would simply not be there anymore as coach beforehand.”

John Terry is a finalist for the vacant Middlesbrough job

Photo by George Wood/Getty Images
Leave a comment

In a matter of just a few days’ time, John Terry could be named the new manager of side Middlesbrough.

[ MORE: Valencia end Barcelona’s four-year hold on Copa del Rey ]

According to a report from the Guardian, Terry is being considered as one of three finalists, alongside former Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic and former Boro defender (and current first-team coach) Jonathan Woodgate, for the EFL Championship side’s vacant job.

Terry has reportedly spoken to the Boro hierarchy in recent days, and chairman Steve Gibson is expected to make a final decision over who will replace Tony Pulis following the weekend. Boro spent the entirety of the 2018-19 season jostling for a place in the promotion playoffs, but finished seventh and missed out by a single point.

After announcing his retirement from playing in October, Terry was named assistant coach on Dean Smith’s staff at Aston Villa, where he has remained throughout the season and will do so through Monday’s promotion playoff final against Derby County.

[ U-20 WORLD CUP: Ezequiel Barco’s golazo paces Argentina to big win ]

Jokanovic led Fulham to promotion last season before he was fired in November as the Cottagers appeared headed for an immediate relegation back down to the Championship, which ultimately came to pass.

Woodgate came through the Boro academy and played for the club on two occasions, 2006-2007 and again from 2012-2016. He was named a member of Steve Agnew‘s coaching staff in March 2017, less than a year after ending his playing days.

German Cup: Bayern Munich complete double by beating Leipzig

AP Photo/Matthias Schrader
Leave a comment

BERLIN (AP) Captain Manuel Neuer returned from six weeks out injured to help Bayern Munich complete a domestic double after beating Leipzig 3-0 in the German Cup final on Saturday.

[ MORE: Valencia end Barcelona’s four-year hold on Copa del Rey ]

Robert Lewandowski scored twice and Kingsley Coman grabbed the other as Bayern claimed a record-extending 19th cup win to make up for the disappointment of losing last year’s final to Eintracht Frankfurt.

Bayern coach Niko Kovac, who was in charge of Frankfurt at the time, boosted his chances of keeping his job in Munich after bringing a successful end to what had been a testing season.

Neuer, who missed Bayern’s Bundesliga triumph the week before due to a calf injury, produced two stunning saves in either half when a goal for Leipzig might have been decisive.

Neuer somehow denied Yussuf Poulsen’s header from close range in the 11th minute, when the ball crashed back off the crossbar, and got the better of Emil Forsberg in a one-on-one after the break, when the Swedish midfielder should have equalized.

“You couldn’t write a better script,” Neuer said.

Lewandowski opened the scoring with a header in the 29th, Coman doubled the lead in the 78th after Forsberg’s miss, and Lewandowski wrapped it up with a chip over the goalkeeper in the 85th.

[ U-20 WORLD CUP: Ezequiel Barco’s golazo paces Argentina to big win ]

Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery went on late to make their last appearances for Bayern after 10 and 12 seasons respectively. Ribery became the only player to play in eight German Cup finals.

“They delivered a lot for the team and the club,” Lewandowski said. “We have to be grateful.”

Leipzig was appearing in its first, and had been hoping to celebrate the 10th anniversary of its founding date with a win. Thousands of fans made the relatively short journey from Saxony to cheer their side, though they found themselves outnumbered by Bayern fans at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, which hosts German soccer’s showpiece every year.

“It’s a huge disappointment,” Leipzig chairman Oliver Mintzlaff said. “When you come here, you want to win.”

The supporters had been warming up for hours before the encounter, downing beers and singing songs at various locations in the city before making their way to the game. Fans who arrived on chartered buses lit barbeques and shared crates of beer by the side of the road.

Leipzig coach Ralf Rangnick, the sporting director who took charge of the team on an interim basis before Julian Nagelsmann arrives from Hoffenheim, started with his strongest team, with American Tyler Adams lining up beside Kevin Kampl in midfield.

Leipzig looked sharper, fresher and quicker at the start, but one lapse was all Lewandowski needed to open the scoring. David Alaba whipped the ball in toward the penalty spot, where Lewandowski had too much space to head inside the left post.

Coman displayed a fantastic first touch to control the ball past the helpless Peter Gulacsi for Bayern’s second, and Lewandowski ensured the result was emphatic when he claimed his competition-leading seventh goal. Lewandowski was booked for removing his shirt in the celebrations, but he accepted the yellow card with a smile.

“We worked hard for the whole season. In the end you could say it was a good season for us,” the Polish striker said.

Valencia end Barcelona’s four-year hold on Copa del Rey

AP Photo/Miguel Morenatti
Leave a comment

Barcelona’s four-year reign as Copa del Rey holders came to an unceremonious end on Saturday, as Valencia shocked Barcelona in the 2018-19 final in Seville.

[ U-20 WORLD CUP: Ezequiel Barco’s golazo paces Argentina to big win ]

Saturday’s upset capped off a thoroughly successful 100th season for Valencia, who finished fourth in La Liga — assuring them of a second straight season in the Champions League — and lifted the club’s first major trophy since its last Copa triumph, in 2008.

Barca, on the other hand, must make do with merely winning the league title by 11 points and reaching the Champions League semifinals.

Kevin Gameiro opened the scoring with a powerful strike from the edge of the penalty area in the 21st minute. Jose Gaya’s cross came in from the left and found the Frenchman all by himself with plenty of time for a touch to settle and open up space for the shot.

Rodrigo Moreno doubled Valencia’s lead in the 33rd minute, sending a downward header past Jasper Cillessen after Carlos Soler worked his way around Jordi Alba to deliver a hard-hit ball across the face of goal.

Lionel Messi tapped home an empty-net rebound to pull a goal back for Barcelona in the 73rd minute, but that’s as close as Barca would get to mounting a comeback.

Valencia have now lifted the Copa del Rey on eight occasions (fifth-most all time), but still trail Barca’s record of 30 Copas by some way.